5 Things We Learned About VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger

Gelsinger Front And Center

VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger took the stage last week at the 2018 Best of Breed Conference to talk about a variety of topics, from VMware's plan to dominate the security market to pushing himself to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise money for a women's high school in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya.

"I got up to the point where I was doing 5,000 steps an hour with a 20-pound pack. I was super fit and ready for it, with the exception of downhill," said Gelsinger, regarding his training.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based virtualization leader has no plans of abandoning its non-Dell Technologies partners, vendors or customers, and believes that technology spending will continue to stay "hot" not just for a few years, but for a few decades, according to Gelsinger. CRN breaks down five things we learned about VMware's CEO during his keynote presentation at BoB in Philadelphia.

'Extremely Committed' To Closing The Tech Diversity Gap

Gelsinger said when it comes to diversity in the technology industry, "generally, tech sucks." The VMware CEO is "extremely committed" to making women more prevalent throughout the industry worldwide. His company was one of the founding members of Women Who Code, a global non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring women to excel in technology careers. Under the leadership of Gelsinger, VMware founded the Women Transforming Technology conference, which is committed to building a community and tackling issues that are top of mind for women in technology.

"We recently announced our largest commitment ever out of the VMware Foundation for forming a joint [partnership] around women in technology with Stanford to understand the underlying issues on why diversity is challenging. We've changed our hiring practices in that regard. We've worked at it real hard. We've got a long way to go, but we've seen real, statistically measured progress in our hiring and the mix in our staff," said Gelsinger.

Gelsinger also said that the freshman engineering class at Stanford University – “our closest partner” – is now female. “We feel we're a little piece of that progress. That's up from 21 or 22 percent five years ago."

Tech Economy Will Continue To Stay 'Hot' For 10 To 20 Years

With major technology segments like storage, servers, public cloud, hyper-converged infrastructure, cybersecurity and others showing consistent double-digit revenue increases year over year in 2018, some question if there is another dot-com bubble brewing. Gelsinger has no fears of any type of massive technology spending decline over the next few years because technology now permeates everything, especially with new needs in the areas of cloud, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things.

"We're in this era of what I call the superpowers of technology – cloud, mobile, AI and IoT – that technology permeates everything, becoming more critical to every aspect of every business. It’s not being decided by CIOs anymore. It's being decided by CEOs. They view it as a critical role of their business," said Gelsinger. "So now this year, world GDP growth is probably 3 [to] 3.5 percent. Overall tech growth is like 6 percent. And I believe that gap will persist. It will persist not just for a year or two, but a decade or two, because tech permeates everything. … So I believe that tech is in for a very good period of time or extended period of time."

VMware Wants To 'Disrupt Everything About The Security Industry'

VMware plans to disrupt the security market through product innovation and its new NSX Everywhere strategy where the network and security are tightly coupled together, according to Gelsinger. The vendor's new NSX-based portfolio is going to be a driving force in the security market along with VMware's plan of building base security functions directly into solutions. "I want to disrupt everything about the security industry. It's all screwed up," he said.

A significant issue in the market is customers implementing hundreds of different vendor security products inside their environment, causing confusion and difficulties when problems arise. "How do you make all that work, right? The patches of the patches, and integration— it's just nuts and that has got to get much simpler," Gelsinger said. "So we said, 'We're going build more of the base security functions directly into our platform. NSX is a networking platform that is a networking and security platform, where you microsegment [and] you reduce the attack surface, [use] AppDenfense, use the virtual machine to ensure good."

Building A Women's High School In the Slums Of Nairobi

In July, Gelsinger hiked Mount Kilimanjaro, with an elevation of approximately 19,341 feet, for the charitable organization Missions of Hope International, which supports orphan and vulnerable children and their families throughout Kenya. Gelsinger, who has been known for his charitable work for decades, raised a whopping $325,000 in an effort to build a women's high school.

"Women and girls are highly susceptible to tribalism. Many of them are being raised by aunts, uncles or grandparents. The women are married off at 11 or 12 years old to become the third, fourth, fifth wife of a tribal chief. That pattern of tribalism is heavily imbued. Building a girls boarding high school breaks that cycle," said Gelsinger.

The physical training regimen to prepare for the climb was no small feat. "I got up to the point where I was doing 5,000 steps an hour with a 20-pound pack. I was super fit and ready for it with the exception of downhill. If you go up to 20,000 feet, you also have to come down from 20,000 feet. Man, did that hurt," he said.

Will Not Abandon Non-Dell Technologies Customers, Partners And Vendors

VMware is majority owned by Dell Technologies and part of its seven family of businesses: Dell, Dell EMC, Pivotal, RSA, Virtustream, SecureWorks and VMware. Both Gelsinger and Dell Technologies CEO Michael Dell are planning to continue deep portfolio integrations, as well as a possible merger in a move for Dell to become public. Gelsinger said VMware will not abandon non-Dell Technologies customers, partners and vendors. When asked if non-Dell customers and partners are expressing concerns about VMware's long-term commitment, Gelsinger said "trust" becomes a critical part of the equation.

"That's why when they call me up and say, 'Pat, we've got this deal in Europe. Are you really going to honor our registration? You can't let the Dell guys flip this one on me.' We have to go tell our Dell counterparts, 'We're glad you like that account, but there's no blankin' way you're entering that account because we're partnered with one of these other vendors.' It requires us to be very disciplined," said Gelsinger. "Some of the channel programs we've put in place over the last couple of years are very much designed so that we're honoring the partnership with [partners] with the way we do registration and margin back to the channel. For our other partners, it becomes super critical that we honor the registrations [and] that we put in place the investments in the channel programs, so HP or NetApp can say, 'That's a good partnership.' I get a few escalation calls and sometimes it's pre-escalation, and it's, 'Don't leave me hanging on this deal, Pat. I'm partnered with you.' A lot of times, it's the customer's choice."